Location: Birmingham, AL
Article & Photos by David Shehi
Michael Franti & Spearhead provide testament to the universal language that is music. Ask anyone from Franti’s hometown of San Fran and they may tell you that they doubt that the Deep South would embrace the anti-war politico-reggae rock of these fine talents. They would be wrong. On this night at Work Play Soundstage in Birmingham those in attendance came out with a spirit that was full of get-down and a spirit that was fully prepared to groove. The night started out with a spicy opener in Kingston Jamaica’s Cherine Anderson.
Cherine is also a contributor to Franti’s latest album. She serenaded the crowd with Bob Marley’s Redemption Song before moving into a few of her solo project tunes. Simply put, this beautiful young lady set the stage for what Franti does best by involving the audience and what just so happens to have been probably one of the whitest guys in the crowd in some Jamaican dance on stage. It was just one of those relished live music moments. In any event, the mood was set and the crowd was ready to play.
Franti & Spearhead came out in their typical boisterous fashion with Everybody On A Move with a Billie Jean tease that served as the springboard to keeping the entire venue lit up with energy. Half of the crowd may have never even heard Franti before, but no one noticed as the room shook to the vibration that emanated from the stage. In these ways, Franti welcomes all to his message and makes it open to all. It plays to the human need of
desiring to belong. With the audience now in one accord spirituality took its place for the remainder of the gig. Although Michael is a little too lanky to pull off the moon walk, he gets an “A” for the attempt!
The show progressed into true showcase of the diversity that Spearhead has and many doubt. The opener segued into the crowd participatory Hello Bonjour where Franti’s internationalism appears in its lovely form. Again, these songs carry powerful messages such as “don’t take our boys away, don’t take our girls away.” And they do this while not being boring and hence, sell the message which is definitely worth buying. From here we saw the absolute other talent within this band with each taking turns at showcasing their talents in both an a-cappella ensemble to the annihilation of powerful riffs of guitarist, Dave Shul, to the funky-reggae bass thumping of Carl Young.
Throughout the course of this fine evening, we witnessed both the soft side and passion filled tunes including a tribute to his son, Hey World that raised the geese on the skin and left lovers holding each other and strangers smiling at each other, some with tears in their
eyes. We got the fan-friendly Everybody Deserves Music. By the end of the night, Michael had interacted with the crowd from the pit, invited a few young ladies on stage to mock play his vast array of guitars for Yell Fire which also included the noticeable riff from AC/DC’s Back in Black. With his dreads now swinging as though that cat from Faith No More had entered his body for a moment, the moment was surreal. This show must be witnessed. In estimation, these guys are absolutely on fire. Put it like this- at the end of the ever fan favorite, Say Hey, Michael was standing on his hands in some contorted yoga move. Wow.
It has been said that a Michael Franti show is like going to church where one can cut loose, have a few beers, and rejoice in the message of music. On this night, he proved this adage well. This was Franti’s third show back following an extended absence due to medical problems. It appears that he has needed a release from his hiatus because the Spearhead Vibrations were aplenty on this night in a beautiful city and beautiful venue in Work Play. Moreover though, by the end of this gig, Michael & his Spearhead family reminded us of the beauty in the world which is a memory that needs to be refreshed in us all at times.
Fri 08/21/09 Charlotte, NC
Sat 08/22/09 Norfolk, VA w/ Counting Crows
Wed 08/26/09 Red Bank, NJ
Thu 08/27/09 Highland Park, IL “Ravinia Festival At Ravinia Park”
Fri 08/28/09 Atlantic City, NJ
Tue 09/01/09 New York, NY
Thu 09/03/09 New York, NY Rumsey Playfield / Central Park w/Counting Crows
Fri 09/04/09 Snowmass, CO Snowmass Town Park “Jazz Aspen Snowmass”
Fri 09/04/09 Aspen, CO Belly Up Aspen w/ Drive-By Truckers
Sat 09/05/09 Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavilion w/ Counting Crows
Sun 09/06/09 Seattle, WA Seattle Center Bumbershoot Festival
Wed 09/09/09 Eugene, OR McDonald Theatre
Thu 09/10/09 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
Fri 09/11/09 Central Point, OR Lithia Motors Amphitheater “Britt Festival”
Sat 10/03/09 Santa Fe, NM Santa Fe Polo Grounds
Sun 10/04/09 Austin, TX “Austin City Limits”
For more on Michael Franti & Spearhead, log on to:
Cherine Set: Redemption Song, Talk If Yuh Talking, Skin To Skin, Ring The Alarm
Franti & Spearhead Set: Everybody On A Move^, Hello Bonjour, Time To Go Home, Rude Boyz, Jam Rock. Little Bit A Riddim, All I Want Is You#, Nobody Right Nobody Wrong, Everyone Deserves Music, Sound Of Sunshine, Anytime You Want Me, Never Too Late, Remote Control, I Know I’m Not Alone, I Got Love For Ya, Yell Fire@, Hey World, Say Hey (I love You) > Band Intros over House Music
^ Billie Jean tease
# Tainted Love tease
@ Back In Black tease
listen to the show here: www.archive.org